Friday, October 31, 2008

Harried, harassed, criticized and cornered, the Delhi police seem to have made a seemingly valiant attempt to answer the questions raised by us, and later supported by almost the entire media, with regard to the 'encounter' at Batla House. Their answers are contained in a four column story headlined " Cops return fire, blast critics of Jamia shootout " published yesterday ( October 7, 2008 ) in The Times of India, New Delhi. Since we are being unanimously held responsible to have opened the Pandora's box first of all by pointing out the stark anomalies in the police version of the operation in which two alleged terrorists were killed and a high profile police officer lost his life, it would meet the ends of justice if we gave a proper and due appreciation to the story of the police department. But two very pertinent aspects of the above mentioned report are to be kept in mind before we proceed to discuss the points contained therein. Firstly, the report itself mentions that it is a reaction of senior police officers who "flew off the handle' due to the Samajwadi Party leader's 'outburst about the authenticity of the shootout', and, secondly, the 'senior' police officer who has 'replied' to the questions has done so on condition of anonymity because he did not want to join issue with "politicians and human rights activists who have spread a spate of canards to discredit police action". This irresponsible and ill-worded remark, coming as it does from a 'senior' police officer, amply reflects the police mindset and attitude and, in ordinary circumstances, would have been reason enough for us to rubbish and ignore his feeble attempts at explaining police action; but circumstances are not ordinary and so his assertions warrant a close examination in the interest of justice.
Seven points have been raised in the news story on which the police is said to have been wrongly targeted. Let's take them one by one:
The first point is outright disbelief by all and sundry of the police claim that two of the terrorists 'escaped’ from the L-18 flat. In reply to this the officer is quoted as saying, "The escape of two men from the flat is being used to discredit the police. A bogus story is being spread when the fact is that there were terrorists operating from the flat". Where is the 'reply' in this remark? And what, pray, is the 'bogus' story’? To the allegation that the operation that day was being monitored by the Home Minister Patil from the Police Headquarters, the reply as reported is: “There is nothing in the Headquarters which could have facilitated any such exercise between the cops at the spot and the minister". So where all the public money allocated for wireless equipment and other does sophisticated communication devices has gone? If, at any given time, the Union Home Minister cannot communicate with a highly trained and rated police team engaged in a sensitive operation then we sure are living in the Paleolithic age. Another 'senior' officer involved in the investigation stated that apart from those arrested no other student has been questioned. “Not even one student has been questioned" WHY? What kind of investigation is this? Or was it due to a sense of guilt that no other person in Jamia was questioned. This assertion strengthens our considered opinion that the police conducted the raid and 'encounter' without even a preliminary enquiry and took absolutely no pains to justify it by collecting evidence from the area even after the incident. The officer goes on to say that " video clips from the mobile phones of Sajid and Atif , the two men killed in encounter, proved their role in blasts in Gujarat and that cops had also seized a bag in which explosives had been brought from Karnataka by the two men before the Delhi blasts". Apart from the fact that these two facts were not mentioned by either Karnail Singh, JCP, Special Operations Cell, or the Commissioner of Police himself in their press conferences held on the day of the encounter itself, the Karnataka police has vehemently refuted the assertion of the Delhi police that the explosive material was purchased and brought from Udupi in Karnataka. And, in any case, the nature of this kind of evidence can only be properly examined and appreciated in a court of law. Common sense, however, does pose the question as to why any terrorist who goes to a lot of trouble in trying to conceal his real identity and movements for the purpose of terrorist activities should carry video clips of bomb blast anywhere. And carrying video clips alone does not prove him to be the perpetrator of bomb blast, anyway.
About the Arabic headdress used to cover the faces of the accused the officer says, "We have looked into this and he (the sub-inspector who produced the accused in court) did not have a clue (as to what an Arab headdress is). It was used only because it was readily available". He fails to explain who had procured the quite apparently new headdresses and from where. And a sub inspector who does not recognize a signature Muslim headdress when he sees one does not deserve to remain in police service. But the officer seems to justify, rather foolishly, by further remarking, "In any case the name of the organization and also of the accused was all over the place".
As for Sharma not wearing a bullet proof jacket, the cops said that he was a seasoned officer who had gone there for verification. "Only people who have no idea about police operations can say this. The whole world knows that the first person to go there was wearing a tie as he was masquerading as a sales agent. Sharma following him wearing a bullet proof vest would have been a dead giveaway". This is serious: Sharma was a seasoned police officer. In fact he was an 'encounter specialist' and had more than forty 'kills' in as many encounters to his credit. So this tie-wearing officer is the first person to confront people suspected to be 'terrorists' and remains safe. He even alerts the team ( as per police version ) regarding the identities of the inmates of the flat and yet the person who follows him to confront the presumably armed terrorist is none other than an officer not wearing a bullet proof vest and is shot. The tie wearing officer still remains safe ( although by that time the 'terrorists' must have got wise to his real identity ) and even helps the injured officer four floors down to the street level and to the vehicle that took him to hospital. It simply doesn't wash. Even more unfortunate is the fact that if the police version is believed to be true it casts shadows of doubt on the degree of training and preparedness of our police force, not to speak of their strategy-planning capabilities in the face of the terrorist threat. As for Sharma's transfer, the Indian Express news item tells its own tale, and it also quotes a 'senior' police officer. We choose to make no further comments at this stage……

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